1. Human Biology and Medicine
Download icon

Meta-Research: COVID-19 medical papers have fewer women first authors than expected

  1. Jens Peter Andersen
  2. Mathias Wullum Nielsen
  3. Nicole L Simone
  4. Resa E Lewiss
  5. Reshma Jagsi  Is a corresponding author
  1. Aarhus University, Denmark
  2. University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  3. Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University, United States
  4. Thomas Jefferson University, United States
  5. University of Michigan, United States
Feature Article
  • Cited 0
  • Views 1,060
  • Annotations
Cite this article as: eLife 2020;9:e58807 doi: 10.7554/eLife.58807

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in school closures and distancing requirements that have disrupted both work and family life for many. Concerns exist that these disruptions caused by the pandemic may not have influenced men and women researchers equally. Many medical journals have published papers on the pandemic, which were generated by researchers facing the challenges of these disruptions. Here we report the results of an analysis that compared the gender distribution of authors on 1,893 medical papers related to the pandemic with that on papers published in the same journals in 2019, for papers with first authors and last authors from the United States. Using mixed-effects regression models, we estimated that the proportion of COVID-19 papers with a woman first author was 19% lower than that for papers published in the same journals in 2019, while our comparisons for last authors and overall proportion of women authors per paper were inconclusive. A closer examination suggested that women’s representation as first authors of COVID-19 research was particularly low for papers published in March and April 2020. Our findings are consistent with the idea that the research productivity of women, especially early-career women, has been affected more than the research productivity of men.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Jens Peter Andersen

    Danish Centre for Studies on Research and Research Policy, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-2444-6210
  2. Mathias Wullum Nielsen

    Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  3. Nicole L Simone

    Department of Radiation Oncology, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, United States
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-7662-7470
  4. Resa E Lewiss

    Department of Emergency Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, United States
    Competing interests
    Resa E Lewiss, Founder of TIME'S UP Healthcare, a non-profit initiative that advocates for safety and equity in healthcare; advisor for FeminEM.org, a website that supports the careers of women in medicine..
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-9512-4342
  5. Reshma Jagsi

    Department of Radiation Oncology and Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, United States
    For correspondence
    rjagsi@med.umich.edu
    Competing interests
    Reshma Jagsi, Has stock options as compensation for her advisory board role in Equity Quotient, a company that evaluates culture in health care companies; has received personal fees from Amgen and Vizient and grants for unrelated work from the National Institutes of Health, the Doris Duke Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, the Komen Foundation, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for the Michigan Radiation Oncology Quality Consortium; has a contract to conduct an investigator-initiated study with Genentech; has served as an expert witness for Sherinian and Hasso and Dressman Benzinger LaVelle; uncompensated founding member of TIME'S UP Healthcare ; member of the Board of Directors of ASCO..
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-6562-1228

Funding

The authors declare that there was no funding for this work.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Peter Rodgers, eLife, United Kingdom

Publication history

  1. Received: May 12, 2020
  2. Accepted: June 12, 2020
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: June 15, 2020 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: June 19, 2020 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2020, Andersen et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

Metrics

  • 1,060
    Page views
  • 78
    Downloads
  • 0
    Citations

Article citation count generated by polling the highest count across the following sources: Crossref, PubMed Central, Scopus.

Download links

A two-part list of links to download the article, or parts of the article, in various formats.

Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)

Download citations (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)

Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)

Further reading

    1. Human Biology and Medicine
    Marta Gawrys-Kopczynska et al.
    Research Article Updated
    1. Epidemiology and Global Health
    2. Human Biology and Medicine
    Nick K Jones et al.
    Research Advance Updated